Does Assad’s regime have a policy of killing journalists and civilians?
Assad, his regime, and Syria’s state bodies - or what is left of them - are never going to be conducive to a new, democratic Syria
It is not an exaggeration to say that Syrian president, who has been battling a people’s uprising in his country since 2011, is a masterful journalist’s killer. This is the finding of a lawsuit in the US. Assad’s record is hard to defend, some even see his record as that of someone bent on masterful intrigue, deceit and blackmail.
Assad, who in the first six months of the rebellion against his family’s 40-year-rule of Syria managed to militarize the otherwise peaceful uprising.
Later, his regime succeeded to militarize the opposition and later fragment and divide it into moderate, hardline, and even extremist groupings.
Members of the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and later ISIS were nothing other than violent Islamists who Assad released from prison. Many believe these were the same groups his regime nurtured with Iranian help to resist the US’s presence in Iraq from 2003.
So yes, it was not impossible for Assad or his officers to mastermind the neutralization of a few native or international journalists who came to tell the story of the Syrian people’s will to change.
Marie Colvin is one such journalist who was among the first victims of a targeted assassination in the Baba-Amro neighbourhood in Homs in central Syria.
Marie was a veteran reporter that covered wars everywhere in the world for Britain’s Sunday Times and was deliberately targeted in Homs.
Colvin’s sister filed a 32-page lawsuit alleging that Assad’s military intercepted Colvin’s communications from a media center she was using while in Homs. The intercepts were shared with local informants to then direct artillery fire on the flat where she was staying in a densely populated area.
Colvin, 56, and French photojournalist Remi Ochlik were killed as shells landed on the house. The lawsuit filed in the US district of Columbia in New York asserts, based on documents collected from various sources, that the order to kill her came from high up in the Syrian echelons of power, and the suits name nine military officers - among them the brother of the president himself.
Assad, his regime, and Syria’s state bodies - or what is left of them - are never going to be conducive to a new, democratic Syria.Mohamed Chebarro
So far, more than 100 journalists and local activists payed with their lives while trying to cover the conflict in Syria, and the Marie Colvin lawsuit reveals a policy by the Damascus regime to target those intending to spread news of the conflict. This lawsuit is based on testimony from regime defectors, informants, citizen journalists and others from the Syrian diaspora and it was collected and cross checked over a period of three years.
What the lawsuit reveals is what is already common knowledge in the Middle East and less so in the Western world; the regime has attempted on several occasions to turn the world away from the clear genocide being committed in Syria over the past five years.
To add insult to injury, voices in the West are rising to suggest the need to work with the Assad regime now to tame ISIS, and to block the flow of Syrian refugees into Europe and decide the future of the regime at a later stage.
The lawsuit, if anything, should persuade many how short sighted and futile such action would be. President Assad did not wait to receive a summons by an American court to reply to the lawsuit. In an interview with NBC News, Assad insisted that Colvin was responsible for her own death, a view largely repeated by the embattled head of the Syrian regime when addressing the question as to who killed 300,000 Syrian civilians.
In his view, Marie entered the country illegally, and she reported from rebel-held territory hence refusing government minders. This gave him and his henchmen the right to kill her.
It is this mind-set that the West and countries around the world should acknowledge.
Assad, his regime, and Syria’s state bodies - or what is left of them - are never going to be conducive to a new, democratic Syria or even allow a stable region to exist.
The game of blackmail is always a priority for a dictatorship bent on deceit against its people and the countries that oppose it.
Mohamed Chebarro is currently an Al Arabiya TV News program Editor. He is also an award winning journalist, roving war reporter and commentator. He covered most regional conflicts in the 90s for MBC news and later headed Al Arabiya’s bureau in Beirut and London. He tweets @mochebaro